Our guest post from Nigel Akehurst!

Five London based Urban Farming Stories you should know about.. 

Every week there seems to be a new urban farming project springing up. Which is great news for the growing number of locavores – people who want to source (and sometimes grow their own) organically grown local food.  It’s an exciting trend that is only going to get bigger as more people begin to think about their health and the importance of eating good quality food. Until I started Indie Farmer in 2013 I had no idea the number of urban farming projects there were in London but I’ve since been fortunate enough to visit quite a few of them and have picked out a few of my favorites below.

Image Courtesy from Indiefarmer.
Image Courtesy of the Indie Farmer.

Hot off the press – our latest urban farming story about Fortnum & Mason Roof Garden, was submitted by Aiste Saulyte a photographer and urban farmer based in London. She helped Matt Franks the founder of Connected Roots construct the roof top garden at Fortnum & Mason, whilst also photographing the build and interviewing him about the project.

Image Courtesy from Indie Farmer.
Image Courtesy of the Indie Farmer.

My second favourite urban farm in London is Connected Roots – Google Allotments. Back in x Matt invited me along to the Google Allotments in Tottenham Court Road. Being a bit of technology geek myself I jumped at the chance to find out more about Google and their roof top allotments. It turned out that one of the Google growers was even wearing Google glass – no doubt recording all the growing advice!

Image Courtesy from Indie Farmer.
Image Courtesy of the Indie Farmer.

Remember the 2012 Olympic logo? Love it or loathe it Wolff Olin Roof Top Garden were the international branding agency responsible for creating it. Based in a canal side warehouse building they created a roof top garden to grow a mixture of vegetables and herbs to be used in the staff restaurants. I met Paul Richens the architect and Head Gardner at the project to find out more.

Image Courtesy from Indie Farmer.
Image Courtesy of the Indie Farmer.

Transformed from a derelict shop on Dalston Lane into an urban farm and aquaponic’s centre – I interviewed the Something & Son team behind the project – FARM: shop Aquaponics.

Finally it is clear that Urban growing has become so popular in London that there are now trade shows dedicated to it. Grow London’s upscale designer urban gardening show, based in Hampstead Heath, launched last year to much fanfare. I went down to find out what all the fuss was about and managed to do a bit of celebrity spotting too.

Follow Nigel @nigelakehurst and the Indie Farmer @indiefarm.

A week on social media.

It has been another busy week on Twitter for Urban Farming.

An Urban Farming group have tweeted about bee farming being accepted by Edmonton Council.

There have also been a variety of discussions amongst users about the design of future micro parks in London.

Farm the City London have expressed their delight about the new design for the Sensory Garden in the City.

We love that everyone is still on the Urban Farming hype!

If you like what we’ve put together, follow the Twitter accounts of the ones we have mentioned to learn about what they plan on doing about urban farming in London and their thoughts about it in the City.

Check out our twitter @urbanfarmerLDN for more tweets about urban farming!

Love food? Then start loving bees

Most people probably don’t appreciate bees as much as they should. Sure, people like honey, but otherwise probably consider bees a stinging nuisance. Au contraire! Bees are of vital importance to humans and the food we all love to consume. Without their help, almost 30% of the food we eat would not exist1. You see, crops that we harvest for food products need to be pollinated in order to successfully produce fruit. Without this pollination, you can say goodbye to strawberries, tomatoes, apples and even almonds, among others.

Seventy out of the top 100 human food crops, which supply about 90 percent of the world’s nutrition, are pollinated by bees.2

Well, big deal, you think, this just sounds like a futuristic, dystopian future, right? Not quite. Bee populations have been steadily declining for years. It is estimated that the number of bee colonies in the UK has fallen by 53% between 1985 and 20053.

Main causes

There are several factors which have contributed to a decline in pollinators across the globe. Bees have been affected by diseases caused by parasites which have come from imported bees. Loss of natural habitat has had devastating consequences, as well as drastic weather patterns witnessed in the last few years, where winters have been harsh and springs have been cold. These conditions are hard for bees to deal with. Recently, a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been witnessed in the USA where entire colonies die out 4. The cause for this is unknown, however there are theories that suggest that genetically modified crops may be the cause. Pollution, especially for urban population of bees, has also been attributed to the decline in bee numbers. This is particularly a problem in places like China, where bee populations are so low that flowers have to be pollinated by hand.

A devastating habit that humans have is the use of pesticides. The chemicals used in pesticides have a devastating effect on bees and have been one of the main factors in the decline of bee populations globally. This graph shows the number of incidents (unexplained deaths of bees) investigated in the UK and how many of those incidents were attributed to pesticide use.

Bee death incidents

Source: Opera Research Center 5

Although it may seem like pesticides don’t cause all the problems, it’s important to remember the data above is based only on information which was voluntarily submitted by beekeepers, so actual numbers could very much different. As outlined earlier, bee population declines have been attributed to several factors, but pesticides remain a very destructive reality. Thankfully, as they are created and used by humans, we can at least try our best to control how we use and manufacture them.

In 2013 the EU banned a number of pesticides shown to be particularly harmful to bees 6. Hopefully in the coming years, the ban will have a favourable effect on bee populations. As the graph below shows, the use of pesticides in the UK has been steadily decreasing in the last decade. If this trend continues, perhaps bee populations will level off and maybe even increase.

Use of pesticides in the UKUse of pesticides in tonnes

Source: FAO data 7

What you can do to help

The pesticide ban is a step in the right direction, but the problem of declining bee populations is still very real. The good news is everyone can do their bit! The simplest way is to plant certain types of flowers in your garden which bees love. The Royal Horticultural Society has created a handy list of plants and flowers favoured by pollinators or check out this interactive guide by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, which help you identify which plants in your garden are bee-friendly. Alternatively, you can become a beekeeper! The British Beekeepers’ Association is the perfect place to start if you’re thinking of keeping hives. And if you come across a bee that is crawling about, looking weak, you can help them. Go here to learn how to revive a tired bee.

Throwing a few seeds around your garden takes seconds, so let’s all try to do our bit to help out the bees. We love our food, so we need to love our bees!

Sources

1 http://sos-bees.org/situation/

http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/genetic-engineering/Bees-in-Crisis/

http://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/beesreport.pdf

http://www.saveourbees.org.uk/why-are-bees-dying.html

http://operaresearch.eu/files/repository/20130122162456_BEEHEALTHINEUROPE-Facts&Figures2013.pdf

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22335520

http://faostat3.fao.org/compare/E